What Are You Willing To Have Done

If you plan to contest the charges, consider—before the adversarial process heats up—what you are and are not willing to allow in defending your case. To examine an extreme hypothetical, imagine that you are sued for malpractice by an extremely fragile single mother. You believe her to be a basically good and competent person who has mistakenly but in good faith filed suit against you. Whatever your view of her, the claim she has filed threatens your reputation and career. If the verdict goes against you, referral sources for new patients may dry up, the licensing board may launch an investigation, and your work as an expert witness on the standard of care may be in jeopardy.

With all that at stake, would you be willing for your attorney to depose her and cross-examine her at trial in a way that misleadingly raises questions about her honesty? Would you be willing for the attorney to use your chart notes to create through innuendo the false impression that she is not an adequate mother and that perhaps she even neglected or abused her child?

Or would you consider "clarifying" your chart notes? Those notes may have been done hurriedly, may not have mentioned everything that was done, and may be misleading because of the way they were written. Wouldn't it be better to copy over those notes so that they include the material that you had neglected to put in the first time around on what are, really, if you come to think of it, your draft notes? Wouldn't it actually be a service to the court to remove the unintentional ambiguities along with the parts that are relatively unimportant, that clutter up your account of the treatment? In other words, stripped of its rationalization, would you be willing to hide your actual notes and submit a bogus chart more favorable to your defense?

The struggle to preserve a reputation and career is understandably intense. A question worth asking before the process builds up too much steam is: Am I willing to win at any cost? If not, where do I draw the line? What, if anything, am I unwilling to do—or to have done by others in my defense—to "win"?

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